Wrapping up the final day of workouts at Nats camp

VIERA, Fla - This was something of a historic day here: the final workout for the Nationals at the practice fields down the street from Space Coast Stadium. From here on out, all workouts will take place inside the ballpark, prior to Grapefruit League games. And, of course, next spring the Nats will be opening their new shared complex with the Astros in West Palm Beach. (At least, that's what everyone hopes and assumes will happen.)

For all the flaws this complex and this location have presented the Nationals over the last dozen years, there was one huge benefit for fans: access. There isn't another camp in the majors that lets fans get as close to the players as this one, and while owner Mark Lerner has said fan access at the new site will continue to be good, it's hard to imagine it will be as good as it has been in Viera all these years.

Space-Coast-Stadium-sign-sidebar.jpgAs for what took place at today's workout ... well, it was a bit of a light session. All the pitchers had the day off from throwing, so the workout featured regular batting practice, some defensive drills, the pitchers' Wiffle ball game I detailed in the earlier post and then the always entertaining sliding drill for position players.

The workouts the last few days also have included some special guests: local firefighters and paramedics who were invited to shag flies with the team during BP.

It was the brainchild of pitching coach Mike Maddux, who wanted to give those first responders a chance to experience a taste of life in the big leagues while also giving his own pitchers a chance to skip one of their least-favorite daily tasks: shagging.

"You know, shagging is something that we as pitchers don't really look forward to," Maddux said. "We know we're going to get our fill of it during the season. So we try to do other baseball things that are more constructive with our time here. And those guys love coming out here. It lets them be boys, too. They have a lot of fun doing it while we have more fun doing something else."

The Nationals outfielders who were out there with the firefighters and paramedics enjoyed the interaction.

"Those guys have a high-risk, high-stress job," Clint Robinson said. "So any time they can get out and have some fun, hang out with some baseball players, it's fun. I'm sure it's fun for them. And it's fun for us."

And just how talented were they at shagging balls?

"They had a lady out there the other day who was really good," Robinson said. "You could tell she was an athlete in high school, or something, because she was really good. But a couple of them ... well, you know they're firefighters and not baseball players."

Other news and notes of the day ...

* Tanner Roark will start Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Rays in Port Charlotte, a mere three-hour, 20-minute drive across the state. (The bus leaves Viera promptly at 7 a.m. Yikes!)

More notable, perhaps, is the guy who will follow Roark out of the bullpen: Joe Ross. At this early stage of camp, the Nationals are "piggybacking" their starting pitchers, using some in relief of others. Obviously, at some point that will need to change when starters need to be stretched out to more than three innings a piece.

Should we read anything into the fact Roark and Ross are pitching on the same day? Might that suggest they're competing with each other for one rotation spot? Perhaps, though again, keep in mind it's so early in camp and pitching schedules can easily be moved around.

* None of the projected members of the opening day lineup are making the trip. It'll be all reserves and young guys playing in the game while the others stay back in Viera for a workout inside Space Coast Stadium.

Manager Dusty Baker does plan to start playing some of his regulars Thursday when the Nationals host the Mets in their spring home opener, including (likely) Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ben Revere. Jayson Werth is scheduled to make his game debut Saturday against the Tigers. Ryan Zimmerman, as explained earlier, is purposely being held back (likely until next week) in an attempt to shorten his workload one year after he battled plantar fasciitis in his foot.

"This is a very volatile time for hamstrings, shoulders," Baker said. "Guys early in the spring - I don't care how you practice - you never really go full-out like you do in the games, except for the guys trying to make the team. I urged my guys to go hard but not do anything crazy, and build up to where you can go 100 percent."

Starting lineups: Nats vs. Rays in Port Charlotte
Looking at position battles, including Trea Turner...

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